Building a Better Bethel – Full Report

 There has not been any overall neighborhood planning done for the Bethel area in almost 50 years – since 1982. This lack of planning is evident in the inadequacy of local amenities (theaters, restaurants), recreation facilities, and critical infrastructure such as bike paths and sidewalks.  The ABC Executive Board knows that there are opportunities to make Bethel better – supporting the creation of new jobs and educational opportunities, building better transportation connections, easing the path for redevelopment in key areas, and strengthening business connections. With YOUR help and ideas, the ABC Board and our elected officials are willing to work to make Bethel Better.  The ABC Civic Engagement Team has crafted six statements that have been presented at City Council Public Forum meetings recently and they can be found on our website and Facebook. We have also met with City Councilors Greg Evans and Claire Syrett as well as Anne Fifield, Eugene’s Economic Strategies Manager. Anne presented a Bethel Redevelopment Plan to the City Council on April 22 based on our concerns (it’s posted on the ABC Facebook page). After the presentation, the motion was made (and passed 7-1) to:
Direct the City Manager to develop a comprehensive planning implementation and funding strategy to achieve community and economic prosperity in Bethel.
The first two strategies shall include:
1) Continued neighborhood engagement and capacity building

(which is what we are starting now with this meeting!)
2) A neighborhood planning process

We will advocate to be next in line for a Bethel Neighborhood Plan in Envision Eugene. 

It is an exciting time for the Bethel area and that’s why it is an important time for us to take a deeper look at how we can build on our assets to encourage even greater vitality in our community. The goal of this meeting was to gather input for YOUR vision of A Better Bethel. 

(Opening statements by officials took place at the beginning of the meeting but have been placed after the neighborhood comments in order to highlight comments by Bethel neighbors.)

Officials in attendance:

  • State Senator James Manning
  • State Representative Julie Fahey
  • Mayor Lucy Vinis
  • Lane County Commissioner Par Farr
  • City Councilor Ward 6 Greg Evans
  • City Councilor Ward 7 Claire Syrett
  • City Councilor Ward 8 Chris Pryor
  • Bethel School Board Member Debi Farr

Ideas to Build a Better Bethel (comments grouped by topic):

Public Safety/Lighting

  • Concerns of the Golden Garden online community about vandalism, drugs, criminal activity.  The streets are dark due to a lack of light posts, the lights on the bike path in Golden Garden Park do not work consistently. 
  • Hillary Mankofsky, the Safe Routes to School Program Coordinator: Would like to see more sidewalks especially around schools so more students can walk or roll to school, more speed bumps and more and safer road crossings.
  • Tresa H.: Expressed the need for more lighting on the northeast side of Barger and Cubit (in the WinCo area).   She does not feel safe walking at night in that area.
  • Steve W.: likes the statement “Bring Bethel out of the shadows”. We need that in street lights and sidewalks.
  • Ann:  She would also appreciate more lights and safety.
  • Christina O.: Thank you for mentioning our safety walking and biking. My son was recently mugged and stabbed returning from nightshift at WinCo, the perpetrators have not been caught. Please do all you can for safety issues.
  • Claire Syrett: Specific complaints can be addressed and it is possible to have a Public Safety Officer to make an overall assessment of bike paths and street lights in the area, however, there are no dedicated funds for improvement and finishing sidewalks is a challenge.
  • Claire Syrett: The issue of needing to fix lighting in the neighborhood wouldn’t come to city council. It would be reported to our public works department. I will have to defer to Councilor Evans regarding what kind of response was provided.
  • Greg Evans: Lighting is an issue for other areas of Eugene as well and that we have to work with EWEB to build a stronger relationship in regard to lighting infrastructure.  He does not believe funding is available, although Congressman Peter DeFazio is Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and is working to pass funding for transportation, water and broadband this year.
  • Greg Evans: He has worked with Chief Skinner to increase patrols in Bethel.
  • Claire Syrett: Thanked Senator Manning.  As a member of the Ways and Means Committee he may be able to help with grants to improve lighting.  This is something the State can help with.
  • Claire Syrett: The ABC board can ask a Public Safety Liaison to come to a meeting.  (Lin Woodrich noted that the Public Safety Committee meets monthly with Margaret Mazzotta, our Bethel Crime Prevention Specialist and other EPD speakers.)
  • Lucy Vinis: The city administration is aware that vandalism has gotten worse; in the last 5-year period calls have increased 21% without an increase in the number of police officers and that police are only able to respond to 70% of the calls.  The city is committed to increasing the number of police officers so even if you are frustrated and do not feel like calling the police will help, please call so that the city knows where they don’t meet the need. 

Homelessness

  • Galen H.: Is embarrassed to live here.  The homeless camp is tied to break-ins at his home and garage, confrontation with young daughter, syringes in his yard.  He has called the police and they don’t do anything.
  • Bonnie Stone – ABC Board: lives on Barger and confirmed that people leave food trash and syringes along her property.  Cahoots will pick up syringes.
  • Mary Beth A.: The homeless problem has gotten much worse, including garbage pickers making a mess.   
  • Paul and Jessie R.: Expressed concern about the homeless.  Some are just out of work and we should have a place where they can just be, where they could put their stuff and get better mental health support. Then some of the problems would disappear. 
  • .: Homelessness is a symptom of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and there is a need for financial literacy.
  • Suzanne O’Shea – ABC Board: Governor Gavin Newsom, CA, has been actively using Coronavirus funding to house, feed and serve homeless, including leasing and option to buy hotels & motels and hiring services to deliver meals and healthcare. Maybe he has some advice.
  • Lucy Vinis: Referenced the 10 recommendations from the Technical Assistance Collaborative report (TAC report as part of the Public Shelter Feasibility study by Lane County and the City of Eugene).  The city was in the process of rolling out these recommendations when the COVID-19 crisis hit.  The city has hired outreach coordinators that once the stay-at-home order is lifted will continue to help homeless to access mental health and other services. 
  • Pat Farr: The activities that Galen describes are mental health issues, and he urges Galen to interact with him. Many of the people that he hears from are concerned about criminal behavior.  Homelessness affects everyone, not just the homeless, and there is a need for safe and secure housing for everyone.
  • Pat Farr: Poverty and homelessness affects all of us, even we who have better paying jobs and safe, secure houses.  Homeless kids and single parents are one of my greatest heartbreaks.  By working to provide housing and services to people living in poverty and those with behavioral health issues we address underlying causes.  Please engage with me.  Mayor Vinis, Councilors Syrett, Pryor, Evans and I work together in great depth developing safe and secure housing and shelter.  pat.farr@co.lane.or.us
  • James Manning: The legislature is aware of the needs and has been working hard to increase services.  He cited the $12M for emergency funding for housing.
  • Claire Syrett: The homeless issued is challenging and she and Greg are aware that Bethel, Trainsong and Whittaker are carrying most of the burden.  The city and county are working together on this issue.  So far, they have:
    • Rented a building on River Ave that could provide up to 100 beds for unhoused people with COVID-19 to recover in.
    • Set up 3 sites for unhoused car camping on city property
    • Started a program aimed at keeping at risk people in their homes.

More property owners need to offer a spot for homeless to stay and mental health service needs to improve. 

Transportation/Bike Paths

  • Kate G.: Would like more bike paths so that we can get to other parts of town safely by bike and sidewalks on Pattison
  • Sidney T.: Our first meeting, thank you for the virtual option, I hope it continues. Our family of 4 with young children seconds sidewalks and bike paths.
  • Bonnie Stone – ABC Board: is concerned about the bus routes and lack of transportation.  Anyone west of Echo Hollow will need to take 2 busses to get to downtown.
  • Mary Beth A.: Jacobs Drive bus service is not as good as it used to be, and a lot of seniors in her neighborhood can’t walk as far as they used to.
  • Ashley E.: Is anyone asking people using the system what they need for transportation?  Especially many of these folks need public transportation for work…  What is the process?
  • Claire Syrett: Bus service is an important issue and we could ask an LTD board member to speak at a meeting. 

Highway 99

  • Dan D.: Doesn’t understand why someone would put curbed medians down the center of Highway 99 effectively cutting off 50% of customers to any one of the businesses along that stretch and feels they should be removed.
  • Dan D.: Remembers Highway 99 when it was busy. There were lots of businesses and eateries. Now it looks like land of the living dead. Sorry but it does. It’s ugly. Giving Terry McDonald the reins to what is basically our front porch, is a bad idea. There are a lot of places off the busy streets he could set up his homeless camps.
  • Tresa H.: Thinks that we need to continue an aggressive effort to improve Highway 99 beyond the upcoming U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials as Highway 99 is the pathway from the airport into Eugene; businesses need to be encouraged to clean-up and beautify.
  • Claire Syrett: Thanked Senator Manning, as member of Ways and Means Committee he may be able to help with grants to improve lighting and a beautification project on Highway 99. This is something the State can help with.

Diversity/Inclusiveness

  • Ashley E.: Expressed concern that in creating the best neighborhood that we begin the process by recognizing how inclusive we are.  We are one of the most diverse communities and need to find ways to leverage that and find a way to feel proud about that.
  • Suzanne O’Shea – ABC Board: Ashley, any suggestions that you have to break through to community members that are not participating, or feel they don’t have a voice with ABC, are greatly appreciated.
  • Ashley E.: I do have ideas! 
  • Suzanne O’Shea -ABC Board: Wonderful!
  • Ashley E.: I will put those down on paper and send those ABC’s way and I would also like to take a more active role.  However, it does take adaptability, collaboration and coordination 🙂
  • Heather Quaas-Annsa-ABC Board: Ashley, we’d love to have you collaborate with us!
  • Pat Farr: Glad to hear Ashley’s comments on inclusion as Bethel has an ever increasing Latinix community. Years ago, we used to have Octoberfest to celebrate our diversity and he would like to see such events take place in the future. 
  • Ashley E.: Thank you!
  • Ashley E.: Yes, very true Commissioner Farr.  It takes some development and onboarding to get peoples comfort level and confidence to participate
  • Claire Syrett: Announced the most recent staff position hired to serve as a multicultural liaison to help neighborhoods plan events that are more inclusive.

Environmental Concerns

  • Ann: Went to the Beyond Toxic presentation and found it very disconcerting.  She is concerned that Bethel citizens have an 18-year shorter lifespan and two times the chance of heart attack because of the toxins in the area including poor air quality and underground toxins.  In addition to Baxter that has not been cleaned up, 4 or 5 of the most polluting companies in Eugene are in Bethel. She thinks environmental issues should be the major concern.
  • Claire Syrett: Many people in the city are unaware of the outsized load that Bethel bears and the social determinants on health inequity.  The city needs to not allow new companies that would pollute and work with the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) to clean up.
  • Steve W.: The smell isn’t coming from the Baxter plant – it is coming from burning trash. It’s a poor community and a lot of people don’t have garbage service. Their electric bills are high. They burn their garbage in their fireplaces and they burn a lot of plastic. I can smell that when I go out for a night time walk. It is the worst smelling thing ever!
  • Claire Syrett: Steve – if you can identify which neighbors are burning plastic, garbage or yard debris you can report them to LRAPA who will reach out first with education and then with fines if they can’t get people to stop their activities. I had someone burning a slash pile in my dense neighborhood in Whiteaker and the LRAPA inspector came out within an hour to speak with them and make sure they put it out. If the activity is happening at night, they will send someone out during the day to try and speak with them.
  • Steve W.: Thank you. I’ve thought about doing that but since we get little response on crime calls, I did not think that anyone would come out. I’ll do it.
  • Wes & Sarah M.: Great to know, thank you Claire

Public Involvement

  • Pat Farr: Expressed the need for public comment and participation at City Council and on city committees and the need to get more people involved.
  • Greg Evans: Bethel is underrepresented on city committees, more people need to apply, and more Bethel citizens need to show up at city council meetings.  (Lin Woodrich noted that the Civic Engagement Team has attended, and spoken at the last 4 city council meetings.  The speeches have been posted on the Active Bethel Citizens Facebook page.
  • Mary Beth A.: She has applied to city committees and has not even been called to interview.  She feels like the city doesn’t want Bethel citizens on committees.
  • Lin Woodrich – ABC Board: Asked if it were possible when a Bethel citizen applied if their application could be pushed to the top of the list.
  • Ethan Clevenger – ABC Board: I’d like to see a breakdown of current representation.
  • Chris Pryor: Can Casido at the City Manager’s Office can supply that
  • Tai Pruce-Zimmerman- ABC Board: Also let the ABC board know that you have applied as the board can also advocate for you!
  • Claire Syrett: In some year’s committees are very competitive but that it is possible and appropriate to take the extra step to reach out to council members.

General comments

  • Dan D.: There is a fear that nothing will get done until we have better representation on City Council. 
  • Paul R.: Would also like better restaurants (regular full-service restaurants).
  • Claire Syrett: Neighborhoods may be able to get more people involved by using technology like tonight. Also, the city’s ZOOM meetings have highlighted the need to expand high speed internet outside of the central part of the city.
  • Bonnie Stone – ABC Board: Would love to see internet improvement.
  • Claire Syrett:  Bethel is also in many ways a food desert, WinCo being the only major grocery store, and lack of small local markets; there is a need for more healthy food options. 
  • Paul and Jessie R.: We also have Albertsons.
  • Claire Syrett: Sorry I forgot about the Albertsons – thanks.
  • Pat Farr: BiMart on Royal is very busy and sells limited groceries.
  • Lin Woodrich – ABC Board: There is one Member-At-Large position on the Executive Board that is unfilled if anyone is interested, that all committee and board meetings are open.  The Executive Board meets on the 3rd Wednesday of every month using ZOOM and that everyone is welcome to join. 

Neighborhood Planning Process (moving forward)

  • Tai Pruce-Zimmerman: Little progress has taken place since the Building a Better Bethel report in 2014, and that the Neighborhood Planning process will take years.  The challenge will be to build and then maintain momentum; there need to be some smaller, incremental improvements that can be made so that people see progress as we work through the longer process.
  • Claire Syrett: River Road/Santa Clara have been involved for fifteen years and we should connect with them to hear how the process worked over the long-haul. 
  • Tai Pruce-Zimmerman – ABC Board: The Bethel School District is a huge asset and we need to continue to build on that relationship.
  • Debi Farr: As a Bethel board member I agree we have an important partnership! let’s continue to work together.
  • Heather Quaas-Annsa-ABC Board: And I’m on the Bethel Education Foundation Board.
  • Lucy Vinis: The issues that have been brought up (environment, safe routes to school, Highway 99 corridor enhancement which includes sidewalks) are all connected to ongoing city council strategies and that Bethel needs to tie our issues to the city strategies.
  • Ashley E.: It would be great to bring in a small business accelerators and support like; RAIN Oregon or Eugene Rain type of support for the small businesses

Special Acknowledgements

  • Pat Farr: Thanked Lin for her work with the Kindness Campaign.  Lin Woodrich said that she has CHOOSE KINDNESS lawn signs and will “plant” a sign in your yard, just let her know you want one.
  • James Manning: Lauded Julie Fahey’s work on the Student Success Act that increased funding for K-12 of $1B each year. And he appreciates Peter DeFazio and Jeff Merkley for bringing Federal money to Oregon.
  • Galen H.: Sen. Manning thank you for your support with Kalapuya high school.
  • Claire Syrett: Right after we wrapped up the Build a Better Bethel work, Colt Gill came up with the “Better in Bethel” motto.
  • Tai Pruce-Zimmerman – ABC Board: Thanked the 8 elected officials for giving up their Saturday night to be with us.

Opening Comments by Officials:

State Senator James Manning:

  • This is great. Getting a chance to see everybody I haven’t seen in a long time!
  • Representing Senate District 7, North and West Eugene including Junction City and Lancaster
  • Eboard met on Thursday and had 11 items to approve for budgeting. They had about $50 million. Of the $50 million, they allocated about $30.2 million.
    In particular, we were looking at issues that dealt with housing, farmers and immigrant laborers who pay taxes but can’t file unemployment. We approved funding to give them some financial relief. We also looked at domestic violence and how we are going to make funding for people that are involved in a situation to get away. We had to table an item that had to do with rural hospitals – we were going to put in $3 million for that, but the term “loan” vs. “grant” was questioned because the Federal government has already supplied hospitals throughout the state with dollars. This would have been in addition to help them deal with COVID-19.
  • I don’t learn by talking. I learn by listening.

State Representative Julie Fahey:

  • Glad to see everyone here including Ben (Tai and Angela’s new baby).
  • Representative of State District 14.  Bethel is around 45% of the district.
  • Stated that she is here to listen not to talk.
  • She is Vice Chair of House Economic Development Committee and has the ability to be able to tweak different economic development tools that may prove helpful to the Bethel planning process. One example of that is an Opportunity Zone program that was created by the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It is a program that gives tax cuts when people make investments in certain projects in certain neighborhoods. She is advocating for Bethel at the State level to be one of those areas. She wants to encourage people to make investments in Bethel for which the state legislature provides capital if there is a project that meets the requirement of considerable community support and is ready to go. The State legislature funded public construction projects like Eugene YMCA and the Civic Stadium project. Councilor Evans has talked about the state providing capital for funding Golden Gardens Park.

Mayor Lucy Vinis:

  • Thanks expressed to Lin and community effort to make this meeting possible
  • Anne Fifield gave a very good presentation to the city council on April 22 in support of economic development in Bethel.
  • The city does have tools available to support economic development in Bethel so it is important to hear what is most important to the community. The City’s tools include zoning, urban renewal district, business loans, investment in affordable housing, enterprise zones and Opportunity zones.
  • I am here to hear what is most important to you. We have the framework of Building A Better Bethel and I am very excited to begin this journey with you.
  •  

Lane County Commissioner Par Farr:

  • Congratulations to Tai and Angela on the birth of Ben.
  • He has been working on behalf of the Bethel community for 43 years.
  • 1997-1998 there was an effort to beautify Highway 99 but not much has been done since them.
  • We still don’t have a consolidated plan for parks for Bethel.
  • The county, city council, Bethel school board and the state have been working together for the last 5 years to create a “Better in Bethel.” In fact, the Bethel School Board can invigorate Building A Better Bethel. We need to put all of our attention into it. And we can. We need to do it together.
  • Glad to see Mayor Vinis is here. We have demonstrated over the last couple of years how closely the City and the County can work together. We need to put all of our attention into it. It’s pretty amazing the things we can accomplish when we do things together. That’s what we’ve got to do from this moment forward.
  • ABC is an integral part through the years and see it as being more significant all the time.
  • Thank you for this open forum and looking forward to what people have to say.

City Councilor Ward 6 Greg Evans:

  • Thanks, and glad to be here.
  • He has been on the council trying to bring Bethel out of the shadows.
  • He has worked to focus on economic development in Bethel.
  • The last area plan and infrastructure investment was in 1982 and the area population has grown significantly since then.
  • Expressed need for state funds.
  • Highlighted the plans for the sports park in Golden Gardens Park, the proposed Eugene YMCA on Barger, and the repairs at Echo Hollow Pool.

City Councilor Ward 7 Claire Syrett:

  • Thank you to Lin for her work
  • She served on the Building a Better Bethel plan in 2014, a solid plan.
  • She is pleased with the City Council support, but cautioned that it will take time and working together as a community will be important.

City Councilor Ward 8 Chris Pryor:

  • He worked on the 2014 Building a Better Bethel project plan.
  • He stressed the need to build on what is possible.  The following will be important:
    • Establish consensus on what Bethel wants as a community (land use and other issues),
    • Commitment to follow through (including funding from the city),
    • Collaboration – the more partner groups that come together the better the results.

Meeting adjourned at 8:00pm

Leave a Comment